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Archive for May, 2012

There’s always a first time.  I had a first this past weekend – a flat tire on my bicycle.  I am not an avid biker; I bike for leisure and pleasure every now and then.  This Sunday was a perfect spring day here in New York and I woke up saying to hubby Alan, “let’s bike over the George Washington Bridge; we’ve never done that before.”  There’s a beautiful path along the Hudson River which goes from lower Manhattan all the way up to the bridge, about 13 miles.  We picked up the path about 5 miles before the bridge and biked along parts we had never been.  It’s always an adventure discovering new areas.  Huge barbeques with tents pitched along the river, it’s a great backyard for the apartment dwellers of upper Manhattan.   

The route up to the bridge was quite hilly through beautiful natural preserve areas I never knew existed.  Traveling by car along this route my entire life never allowed me to see all these inner, hidden paths of nature. 

Riding along the walk/bike path over the bridge afforded me a fresh perspective of a view I have seen for decades.   Stopping to take pictures, seeing for the first time a little red lighthouse at the base of the bridge, feeling the city skyline blowing towards me, was a fun treat. 

Being a slow leisurely rider (although a very fast walker) I tell Alan to go ahead and ride at his comfortable speed.  As I neared the end of the bridge, I suddenly can’t seem to get my balance well.  I’m swerving too much.  I wonder if there’s something wrong with me.  Then I think, maybe the basket is hitting the wheel in an off position.  I get off and check and lo and behold I see my front tire is totally flat and almost off the rim.   My first thought is, “Oh no, now what.”  Then I quickly switch into the thought of “this is quite amusing; I have never even thought of the possibility of a flat tire on a bike.  And it’s a good thing I’m at the end of the bridge; and at least this didn’t interfere with our doing what we set out to do.  This is good timing.”  I’m in a pretty good mind-set walking this ‘lame’ bike down the last piece of the bridge on the New Jersey side.  There’s Alan waiting with his hands up in the air, motioning ‘where the heck are you already?’  

I meet up with him and we quickly figure that Alan will ride back to get the car and I’ll find a shady place to sit and wait.  A bit further down, we see a tow truck and a police car by the curb.   We tell them what happened thinking maybe the tow truck driver could take him back to our car, but no; he couldn’t – or wouldn’t-  do it.  Whatever.  We don’t  push it when he tells us there’s a bicycle store down the road about half a mile.  Another new and pretty area to walk along.  We confirm that the tow truck guy is right by asking a couple of bikers along the way.  “Yes,” we are told, “keep on going.”  After a few minutes, we decide Alan should ride his bike ahead to see if and where this store is; it isn’t so easy  walking a flat-tired bike.  Of course he comes back within a couple of minutes to say the store is right down the road. 

There was our oasis – the only store in this immediate area – a big, beautiful bicycle shop.  This is a main biking spot leading to many paths into northern New Jersey and New York.  Boy, we lucked out.  And considering the store was fairly crowded due to a big biking event, we were in and out within 20 minutes with a good-as-new bike. 

We had to be back in New Jersey in an hour and a half for a friend’s daughter’s graduation party.  Wow, we had just enough time to pedal our way back to New York over the beautiful bridge and back along the Hudson River trail.  I smiled the whole way back.  I was so grateful.  It was all good…

I hadn’t fallen off the bike when the tire got flat.  By the way, Alan plucked out a huge bent tack from the tire.  (silly me threw it away; would’ve been a great picture with the tire). 

We were on the ‘right’ side of the bridge, in my view.  I would’ve been so disappointed had it happened earlier where it might have interfered with our bike trip and cut it short. 

There just happened to be a bicycle shop near enough for us to get to.

 It happened to be open, despite many stores in Bergen County being closed on Sundays due to the Blue Laws still in effect. 

The bike got fixed quickly with enough time to continue our lovely ride back and still make it on time for our party.    

Now what do you call all that?!

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“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”  Albert Einstein

This quote says it all.  There is a part of us that is way under-utilized.  The gift of our own inner voice speaking to us from the depths of our souls is an untapped source of potential, wisdom and enrichment for our lives.   

In my mid-life, I’m first tuning into this now.  I’ve always known about intuition but never paid much attention to it.  The tangible and ‘seeing’ stuff had the front seat of my awareness.  In the past few years as I’ve grown more in depth and spirituality this idea of gut feelings, signs and intuitiveness has taken a more prominent place in my consciousness.   When I do my daily walking, I pay attention to all the thoughts that run through my head.  I talk and I listen attentively to myself.  This is where and when I get some of my best clarity, and messages.    

I would like to share with you the voice of intuition from a very wise and intuitive coach.  Angela Artemis teaches us how to tap into and bring to the forefront our hidden voice, and how to recognize and pay attention to those ‘funny’ signs.   Her book, The Intuition Principle is a wonderful combination of concepts and practice.  It’s a great guide to an often overlooked and perhaps a bit mysterious part of our being.   You can get a taste of what this is all about right here in my interview with Angela. 

     1.      What is intuition?

Intuition is our own inner guidance.  It is a small voice we often hear like a whisper, that gently nudges us to make the right choices and decisions in our lives.  It can tell us when we should be wary of a person and when we should act on an opportunity.  It comes to us spontaneously and many times feels like an “aha” moment.

  1. What are the benefits of being intuitive?

What are the benefits of seeing or hearing?  What are the benefits of touch, taste and smell?  Intuition is a natural process of conveying information about your environment to you.  When you are in touch with your intuition you are working with all your faculties, not just five.

Do you know what synesthesia is?   It is when you get a sense about something in another part of the body.  For example, some people with synesthesia hear colors or smells.  They see music as colors or numbers.   Their brains process information through their senses differently than the ordinary way we assume the five senses work. 

Intuition is somewhat similar.  It’s another way we receive information and process it.

When you are intuitive, you may hear a voice that stands out over your thoughts in your mind telling you not to trust someone or not do something.  You may feel sickened or nauseated when you are around someone who you should be wary of.  You many feel reluctant or hesitant to go forward with some initiative.  All of these reactions are a form of intuitive sensing.  They are beneficial because they “inform” you, in addition to your five senses, of information that is vital for you to know. 

  1. How can we use intuition to help us deal and cope with our difficulties and hard times?

During difficult times it is even more important to try to stay calm and not jump into things because they appear to be an easy fix.  Tuning into your intuition requires you to calm down and go within and listen.  When you are centered, ask yourself what you can do to cope with the current situation.  Do not try to force an answer; just remain quiet and calm.  If nothing comes to mind during this time tell yourself that you will get the answer within 48 hours.  It is important not to panic but to stay calm.  In the next 48 hours the answer may arrive via the advice of a friend, something you read somewhere or hear on the radio or see on television.  You will know it as a message meant for you because you will feel a sense of ‘relief’ when it appears.

  1. How can it guide us to a better place, mentally and psychologically?

Knowing that the answers are always within reach gives us peace of mind.  When you know that you can close your eyes and go to a calm place and ask for solutions or to be guided, you feel more in control of your life.  As you continue with this process and develop faith that it always produces the guidance you seek, you also develop greater confidence in yourself and your ability to cope with any situation that life brings your way.  It changes you from within; you no longer see yourself as a victim but rather as someone with the strength and resources to cope with life.

  1. What advice would you give someone who struggles to hear their inner voice?

Learn to relax.  Let go of the outcome.  Don’t worry about being wrong.  Intuition thrives in a relaxed and peaceful state of mind.  One other thing you can do is learn to meditate, and practice every day.   Meditation relaxes the mind and allows your thoughts to slow down.  When your mind is not crammed full of one thought after another, your intuition will easily stand out.

Practice by asking for guidance when you are meditating.  Ask and then sit quietly and listen.  Do not expect to hear a “booming voice” like I did.  It is your own voice that you hear in your mind.  Trust whatever comes.  It could come as a ‘thought’ or a picture in the mind or as a ‘gut feeling.’ After you do this a while, you will begin to truly trust this voice and know it as your intuitive wisdom.  Practice is key.

  1. How can developing and strengthening our intuitive muscle lead us to live a better life?

Intuition is your own inner guidance.  When we look outside ourselves for answers, we give our power away.  We defer to others instead of relying on our own wisdom.  Over time, this will squash your confidence and suppress your autonomy.  Developing your intuition helps you establish healthy self-esteem.

When you know there is no situation in life that you can’t handle and that you are capable of dealing with anything, your confidence goes through the roof.  You will try new things and put yourself in new situations; therefore growing tremendously because you are willing to take more chances in unknown situations.  The person who suffers from a lack of confidence prefers to stay in his safe little box and doesn’t grow through the many experiences like the confident person. 

 

If this has piqued your keen interest and would like a chance at getting a free copy of her book (e-book), please comment by sharing how you’ve become aware or been led by your intuition.  Random selection will be on Tuesday, May 22nd at 10 PM, EST.

You are also welcome to download some free bonus material here.

Check out Angela’s most interesting and enlightening blog at www.PoweredbyIntuition.com

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Feel the pain; find the joy.  Yes, it can be done.  The Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)  group that I periodically join in as facilitator poignantly teaches me this yin yang of life. 

A bicycle accident leaves a man bereft of his ‘old’ life.  He survives but he loses his life as he knew it.  His  dental practice, his marriage, his basic independence all gone with the shattered pieces of his bike.    

Everyone has lost their prior lives due to tragic accidents and strokes.

How does one adjust to such an extreme and vastly different reality?    How does one regain one’s heart and soul when the mind  has taken such huge hits? 

The loss is so profound.  The life has fallen so far; like that of the scarecrow in the wizard of oz, it has to be put back together. 

They are miraculously put back together.   But altered lives live there now.  The work is in helping them heal their hearts and souls so they can open up to adapting to and discovering a new quality of life. 

Their struggles are bravely expressed.  Their faith and gratitude are exquisitely articulated. Their support and sometimes slight impatience with one another are beautifully and amusingly spoken.

Memory is a ‘gonner’ for most.  They live in the here and now.  The inhibition filter is gone for some, which proves to be quite funny at times. 

What truly contributes to the uplifting experience of being in their presence is the ‘realness’, the authenticity and the outpouring of their deeply felt emotions.   They express the pain and yet they see the glory.      

I honor their spirit.      

 

I would like to mention here two amazing blogs that beautifully combine and weave together these seemingly opposites – pain and joy.  Herein lies the challenge – to bring joy into one’s life along with the pain and sadness.  Yes, they really can live together.

http://www.kellehampton.com/

http://awishcomeclear.com/blog/

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I was recently asked to facilitate a session for a Holocaust survivor support group.  The topic was resilience.   Now this is a subject that resonates strongly for me as I feel it’s the key to coping and handling life’s curvy and bumpy roads.   However, as I got to thinking about my actual presentation, I thought it ironic that anyone needed to talk to such a group on such a subject.  I mean, they can all teach us about resilience.  They’re the survivors of some of the worst horrific atrocities perpetrated upon mankind.  They lived it, witnessed it and have been victims of excruciating suffering and loss.

Yet they’ve rebuilt their lives beyond these experiences, carrying with them memories we can only shudder to think about. They’ve somehow been able to integrate the brutality and evilness into their lives and still be able to carve out new lives with meaning and purpose, and even joy.    

I decided to approach this by simply providing a framework to the concept of resilience and then honor them by having them share their ways of living on.  Each participant was a teacher telling us all the qualities, skills and values he/she used to cope and create a new life.

Sure many still wake up in cold sweats having relived a night of awful memories through dreams.  And anger lives on in some.  The image of a mother being forced to watch her baby be tortured to death still haunts the 93 year old cantor.

It’s not the idea of eradicating these things.  It’s about being able to live on, through them, despite them and find a place and ways of handling them so they don’t cripple and destroy one’s life.  The fact that their lives were spared was the impetus for many to forge ahead and live productive and worthwhile lives; it was the empowering factor towards living on in as good a way as possible.   

Not allowing evil to win out and not fulfilling the enemy’s wish to destroy the spirit of the survivors, was a predominant theme and the ‘outcoming’ message was to carry on with Goodness.

Good must prevail.

Leaving a legacy of a life well lived must prevail.

Reproducing new generations must prevail.

Appreciating the beauty around us must prevail.

As all of the survivors are obviously up there in age and are no longer on the treadmill of life – working hard, raising a family, growing a business, making a living- they are now in the more quiet time of their lives and much of the past horrors are flooding their minds. 

And so they flowed back and forth between memories and purpose;  memories and gratitude;  memories and joy.

They truly epitomized Helen Keller’s line, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it.”

I am honored to have been their student first, facilitator second. 

Please watch this video of the oldest known Holocaust survivor, Alice Herz-Sommer, in her interview with Tony Robbins.  She’s a 108 year old pianist who continues to play the piano at home.   And check out the new book, Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, by Caroline Stoessinger.

Thanks for reading.  I love facilitating groups and doing presentations.  If you know of any groups looking for speakers on ‘living well’ topics, please contact me. 

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This week I was a part of two groups where the topic of discussion was self-care.    In one group I was the facilitator for a group of moms whose children are in a rehabilitation hospital, critically ill due to accidents or illnesses. 

Ten years ago I was actually one of those moms whose daughter was miraculously climbing her way out of a life-threatening illness. 

In the other group, I was a participant along with other parents as part of a weekend retreat for families of special needs children.   

I can say now as this week comes to an end, I’ve had a very interesting and most meaningful week.  For  I was in the presence of parents who exude amazing grace and fortitude of character. 

This is a perfect time and place to share some ideas, tips and thoughts that came out of these powerful meetings. 

10 ways to give to yourself during the extraordinary stresses of daily life:  

  1. Put your own oxygen mask on first.  We’re no good to our children if we can’t breathe. 
  2. Set aside even a few minutes a day to calm yourself.  Go into another area away from your children and:   Listen to a song.  Meditate.  Do deep breathing.  Read a magazine article.  Sit quietly and do nothing.
  3. Build in some ‘real’ time for yourself.  Get up a half-hour earlier, before the rest of the household.  The benefit of those 30 minutes for ‘your’ time far outweigh the extra half-hour of sleep.   Exercise, write, read, eat a slow, calm breakfast.  It’s your time.
  4. Set up some boundaries for yourself.  Martyrs don’t win or get extra brownie points.  At some designated point, make yourself off limit.  Enlist others to take over.  Let unfinished tasks carry over to the next day.  
  5. Connect with others.  Set aside time for you and your spouse, friend, supportive other.   Create a ‘date’ night, an hour coffee break out, or a talk time in your home with some ambiance. 
  6. Get out of the house, hospital or place where you are 24/7.  Everyone needs a change of scenery.  There’s a world outside of our own.   Even a half-hour walk, visit to the library, Dunkin’ Donuts, can take us out of ourselves for that quick breather. 
  7. Enlist help from others.  Ask, ask, ask for what you need.  People aren’t mind-readers.  And be specific.  More often than not, people are glad to provide some assistance. 
  8. Give to another.  Being of help to someone else can be therapeutic by taking us out of our own problems.
  9. Build in some playful moments.  It can lighten the load for even a brief moment or serve as a distraction.
  10. Create a daily mental exercise of gratitude.  What am I grateful for today?  Write it, speak it to another, think it, pray it.  It takes the mind away from all the negativity of the problems and puts it in a different place. 

So much of how we function, cope and handle the difficulties and big challenges in our life is about our choices, attitudes, priorities, and ability to think outside the box.   And our ability and awareness of being mindful.  Not  being worried and overwhelming ourselves with the worries of tomorrow or the agonizing past, but focusing on the here and now and doing the best  we can in this moment.  

I leave you now with this beautiful example of creating a fun, stress-free moment, as told by one mom:

When her children come home from school, they all jump into her big bed, special needs children included, and hang out there with mom for about a half-hour, talking, chilling, rolling around, before the evening regimen begins.  So instead of coming in the door to orders and stressful after-school frenzy, this mom has created a fun way to connect.  I love it.  

What’s your way? 

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I recently saw the movie Being Flynn.   It’s based on the memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, by Nick Flynn.   The basic premise is, while working in a homeless shelter, Nick meets up with his estranged, homeless father.  What follows is the poignant struggle of a son to reconnect that severed bond with a brilliant, grandiose and manic, father, who also happens to be a perpetually aspiring writer.  

Transformational stories are uplifting and this certainly satisfied that criteria. 

And so I came home and looked up the ‘real’ people.  As many of you know, I’m an asker.  I reached out and contacted Mr. Nick Flynn asking him if he’d be amenable for an interview.  To my most excited surprise, he said yes. 

Nick is a writer and poet.  He clearly has the talent that never materialized from his father.  One more fact to know in terms of his overcoming and rebuilding his life – his mother committed suicide when he was in his early twenties. 

 

1.    What personal qualities have helped you carry on and move in a positive direction?

It’s more of a support network that allows one to work through things.  Friends and family, community.  It’s a group effort.  It’s recognizing the need for support systems.  It’s something that’s actively done.   You choose your friends and work on your family relationships and seek out those support systems.

2.   Did you go through a period of self-pity; if so, what helped lift you out? 

Everything is on a continuum.  It’s not like you’re in it and then you’re out of it.  Some days you’re in it and some days you’re out of it.  When self-pity comes up you try not to water it and cultivate it.  I don’t think it’s an emotional state that one should try to eliminate.  It’s a continuum.  That’s the model that’s more useful to me.  It’s not good or bad.  It’s part of me.

3.   Was there a specific moment or epiphany that helped guide you to a better place mentally and psychologically or did it evolve?

I don’t think there was much of an epiphany.  I’m not much of an epiphany type of guy.  I put one day in front of the other.  Cultivate the things that are more beneficial to one’s life than harmful.  Again it’s a continuum.  It’s not an ‘either or’.  An epiphany suggests an ‘either or’; you’re either healed or you’re not healed.  I think that’s harmful. 

4.    What are your coping skills that keep you afloat? 

I meditate.  Certainly exercising and eating right.  All that stuff.   If you watch bad movies or engage in destructive behavior, you’re not going to feel psychically sound.  Everyone knows that and still does that anyway.  You have to keep the balance right.  I don’t meditate and exercise and eat well all the time.   You just do the best you can.  Sometimes you’re gonna watch the dumb movie.  

5.    How have you managed to rebuild your life through your difficult childhood/young adulthood?

The main thing for me is I quit drinking and doing drugs.  That was the main change.  It wasn’t an epiphany; it was more of a daily practice.  That was a break from patterns like my father’s.  That was a conscious choice.  I had few options; it was that or die.  For me that’s the main thing. 

Everything is a daily practice.  AA has that phrase, ‘one day at a time’.  It’s basically the idea of being present in the moment.  It’s a Buddhist idea – that’s what you have to do to write, to have a relationship-  to see life as a daily practice.  If there’s any  sort of little message here, this is something I think about . 

6.    What advice do you have for people going through a difficult situation?

Cultivate those support systems.  And that’s a daily practice too.  Recognize that we’re all connected in many ways.  That’s not so clear in the moments of suffering.  But we need to try to hold on to that idea.

  Link to movie trailer

Thanks for stopping by. 

 

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